Plummer Sisters, Milliners

The two Plummer daughters bearing the business name, Emma, born 1856 and Alexandra Annie, born 1864 were set up in their millinery business by their family. They had two millinery shops in York, one in Church Street and one in Feasegate.

Plummer Sisters Millinery is featured in Kirkgate, the victorian street in the Castle Museum.

The Plummer business was founded by David and Susan Plummer and was passed on to their daughters Emma & Alexandra Annie. David was born in St Albans, the son of a Stay-maker from the east end of London. The first 20 years of his working life was spent in Bethnal Green as a Warehouseman for ready made clothes.

Millinery was very much a female business. Hats were made mostly by women for women and their children. Most milliners offered dressmaking services as well as hats and other accessories such as gloves. Traditionally, milliners would set up a workshop in a street-facing window, so people could see them work and know what kind of work they did.

Ladies wore hats or bonnets whenever they were away from their homes. This included large picture hats which might be trimmed with flowers, feathers and even whole stuffed birds. Hats would have been ‘bought in’ to decorate to order, or made from scratch. Often hats would be stripped down and redecorated ready for a new season.

The family moved to Penley’s Grove Street prior to 1901. The two sisters were still living there in 1939 when the Register of that year describes both women as ‘retired fancy drapers’.

Emma died in 1940 and is buried in York Cemetery with her parents. Alexandra died in 1955 and is buried in the adjacent plot

SOURCE: York Cemetery – 20. Shopkeepers of Kirkgate Trail (Jan 2020)

Photo: York Museums Trust